In an interview last November with Variety, rapper Kendrick Lamar said he wasn’t interested in explaining the lyrical riddles that dominate his 2017 album, “Damn.” Aware that the album had spawned a cottage industry of internet cognoscenti dissecting its every line, Lamar told Variety, “I think the more people talk about it, the more it becomes fascinating, and you can have a debate about it. As long as I keep knowing how much to give, giving just enough, and being able to pull back and leave the audience to interpret it, I think [the music] will stay intact.”
Not that Lamar needed to give a damn explaining the meaning of “Damn.,” which in April won the Pulitzer Prize for music — the first recording outside of jazz or classical to do so — after winning five Grammy Awards in February. Calling “Damn.” a “virtuosic song collection,” the Pulitzer music board, rumored to be unified in their crowning of the album, added that its “vernacular authenticity and rhythmic dynamism offers affecting vignettes capturing the complexity of modern African American life.”
Your mileage may vary on which Lamar album is his finest. 2012’s “Good Kid, m.A.A.d City” and 2015’s “To Pimp a Butterfly” are fiery, limber classics. The momentum that propels Lamar these days makes his imminent South Florida visit, his second since September, seem more like a victory lap than a tour stop. Lamar will headline the Championship Tour on Wednesday, May 23, at Coral Sky Amphitheatre in West Palm Beach, sharing the hip-hop-heavy bill with longtime Top Dawg Entertainment labelmates Schoolboy Q, Jay Rock, Ab-Soul, Lance Skiiiwalker and R&B singer SZA, with whom Lamar recorded the hit single “All the Stars” for the “Black Panther” soundtrack.
The lyrics on “Damn.” work like a sewing needle, weaving seductive confidence and unity, the personal and political, the racial and spiritual. In the single “Duckworth,” Lamar shares the apparently true story of how his father, Kenneth "Ducky" Duckworth, a KFC employee when Lamar was a child, nearly died after a restaurant robbery. "Anthony liked him and then let him slide / They didn’t kill him; in fact, it look like they’re the last to survive," Lamar raps in the song. Anthony the robber was really Anthony "Top Dawg" Tiffith, who eventually signed a teenage Kendrick Lamar and became his label boss.
Hardly a stranger to South Florida, Lamar has played here twice since December 2016, first with a loud, intimate set under a beachside dome behind the Faena Hotel Miami Beach. That show, which leaned heavily on Lamar’s 2015 album “To Pimp a Butterfly,” was a sonic assault that never waned in energy or charisma.
He last came through Miami’s sold-out AmericanAirlines Arena in September brandishing a fast and furious performance for a crowd verging on 20,000. The concert revealed Lamar as a man in constant motion, and made it clear that this is Kendrick Lamar’s world. Let everyone interpret what that means.
It’s also a successful world for Lamar’s labelmate SZA, who this week picked up four nominations (for her 2017 debut album, “Ctrl”) at the 2018 BET Awards, behind Lamar’s five. Lamar and his Top Dawg Entertainment crew also have been touting their winning sprees in concert. An L.A. Times concert review May 10 describes banners “framing the stage listing the various awards and nominations they've received.”
“Needless to say, this show was a safe space for self-promotion,” the L.A. Times writes, pointing out a phrase that flashed on a large video screen behind Lamar, who sometimes calls himself “Kung Fu Kenny.” It read “Pulitzer Kenny.” “And given the label's accomplishments, why shouldn't it have been?”
Kendrick Lamar will headline the Championship Tour 7:30 p.m. Wednesday, May 23, at Coral Sky Amphitheatre, 601-7 Sansburys Way, in West Palm Beach. Admission is $35-$157 via LiveNation.com, Ticketmaster.com and pay-by-phone (800-745-3000). Go to KendrickLamar.com.
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